Sunday, November 20, 2005

Understanding mission and vision statements

I'm not a big fan of spending a lot of time on mission and vision statements. Using Steve McConnell's ideas from his Chapter 11 of his book Rapid Development, maybe it's because I'm more of a developer than a manager. McConnell says (emphasis in the original):

If you'a a manager and you try to motivate your developers the same way that you would like to be motivated, you're likely to fail. ...

If you're a developer, be aware that your manager might have your interests at heart more than you think. The phony-sounding "attaboy" or hokey award might be your manager's sincere attempt to motivate you in the way that your manager likes to be motivated.

McConnell's Table 11-1 is "Comparison of motivations for programmer analysts vs. managers and the general population". I highly recommend spending some time with that table. You can see it by going to Amazon, looking up the book, and doing a "search inside" for "Fitz". This link should take you straight to the book. I think this link will take you straight to Table 11-1, but Amazon might move it (I'm not sure if the URLs for Amazon searches are static).

Back to mission statements. One of the most famous is from the original Star Trek TV series (and updated for The Next Generation):

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

In his amusing book All I really need to know I learned from watching Star Trek, Dave Marinaccio explains mission statements (you can Seach Inside for "mission statement" on Amazon):

Crew members of the Starship Enterprise know exactly what they are supposed to do. Suppose you are the dumbest person on the ship. How long do you think the mission will last? Five years? Very good. And suppose you encountered a strange new world? What should you do? Expore it, perhaps. There is even an emotion telling you how you should go about exploring it. Boldly.

He goes on to relate that to corporate/organization mission statements.